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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Rast–Pt 4g: Justif./Walther- "Conclusion"

This post continues from Part 4f reviewing the 2001 essay "The Doctrine of Justification in American Lutheranism" by Prof. Lawrence Rast Jr.  (Table of Contents in Part 1.)
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- - - - - - - - - - - - -   "Conclusion"   - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
So how will Prof. Rast conclude his  history of the doctrine of Justification in America?  Rast said at the top of page 56:
Walther ... proposes a program for recovering the doctrine of justification in the church. Because I think his remarks in this regard are so viable, I will return to this point later and conclude the lecture with his outline.
Rast said that he considers Walther's remarks to be "so viable" that he "will return to this point later and conclude...".  Very good.  Rast seems to hold Walther quite high by this remark.  Let us see if Rast keeps his promise in his "Conclusion" section.
Rast begins by saying (page 58-59):
Recall that by the 1830s much of American Lutheranism had compromised the central article. The story of the next generation, 1840-80, is a remarkable one in which confessional Lutheranism not only appeared on the American scene in force, but actually came to dominate.
Rast says "confessional Lutheranism... appeared on the American scene".  He seems to imply in part that this was caused by C.F.W. Walther, although earlier he had mentioned other German Lutherans.
But Rast's choice of words is somewhat grating...  he seems to be talking about a theatrical play with various "scenes" and "stages"... so now we have reached the "American scene".  Is true Church History just a theatrical play?  Rast borrows phraseology used by modern theologians that think of "Church History" as just "fascinating", with various "scenes"... maybe a movie should be made about it? ... maybe with the American stage, Act 2 – the scene "Confessional Lutheranism"?  This reminds me of Luther's description of Erasmus:
Erasmus of Rotterdam looks upon the Christian religion and doctrine as if they were a comedy or a tragedy, in which all the events described therein never actually happened or really took place,...
I wonder that Erasmus would have made a great movie maker.  But surely Rast is not like Erasmus, he seems to want to grasp Walther's meaning...  But let us proceed...

Rast attempts to summarize "American Lutheranism" by saying (on page 59) that Schmucker's spirit, the spirit at war with Luther's On The Bondage Of The Will, ... that this spirit
 lay somewhat dormant for nearly a century...
Rast is attempting to paint "a kinder, gentler" American Lutheranism that maintained separation from the Synodical Conference.  But Rast is incorrect because "Schmucker's spirit" never left American "Lutheranism" and so Franz Pieper, George Stoeckhardt, Friedrich Bente and others of the Synodical Conference tirelessly defended true Lutheranism, i.e. true Christianity, from what Rast calls "Schmuckerism".  But the above true defenders of Christianity (Pieper, Stoeckhardt, Bente, etc) had to fight against the multitude of errors of  "American Lutheranism" in their days, the period that Rast claims was "dormant for nearly a century".
Rast then says (page 59):
Beginning in the 1950s and 60s a Schmucker revival began. A modified version of Schmucker's ecumenical platform has provided the means, in spirit and perhaps also in methodology, for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's [ELCA] agreements with the Reformed, Anglicans and...
... and who?
... and–and this would be to Schmucker's horror, but I believe there is a consistency here as Walther has rightly pointed out–the Roman Catholics.
Prof. Rast, the church historian, is incorrect again, for Schmucker would not be in "horror" over today's ELCA's agreements with the Roman Catholics [JDDJ].  Any "horror" that Schmucker might show would be a feigned "horror" for Walther exposed the serious error of this American "Lutheran" as essentially Romanist.  Rast recovers somewhat from his "horror" remark by saying "I believe there is a consistency as Walther has rightly pointed out".  If only Rast would stick to the true Church History of Walther and not have to recover from his own ideas and that of his LC-MS... if only he would stop being "fascinated" with Walther's teaching and follow it consistently.
Rast continues by recounting the sad history of the ELCA and its abominable agreements with Rome, Reformed, etc.  But then, to his credit, Rast brings it home to his own LC-MS (page 59):
However, in Missouri, things are not all well either. The Church Growth Movement's compromise ... The influx of Evangelical assumptions ...  "Lutheran Altar Calls." ... Such language is absurd and shows how little the doctrine of justification is regarded in our midst at times.
The last phrase is more than a little distressing, and touches on the most horrible aspect of true Church History since the death of Franz Pieper.  Rast could have brought a testimony from Franz Pieper's writings that would have been appropriate to counter the "tangles" in today's LC-MS.  But instead Rast brings in the testimony of a theologian of one of the synods that formed the ELCA, G.H. Gerberding who wrote in his book The Lutheran Catechist:
Emotionalism, under the form of so-called "New Measurism," or Revivalism, took the place of catechization. Indifference to doctrine fostered indifference, if not hostility, to catechization...
Rast is using this to highlight his former point of a "properly trained clergy".  Now it is difficult to fault what Gerberding says here, but isn't Rast shifting the focus from the Doctrine of Justification to that of "catechization"?  Certainly Walther was a strong proponent of proper "catechization", but that is not what Walther is highlighting here.  But if "catechization" is important, then on what are students to be catechized if not on the pure Doctrine of Justification?  Cannot one "catechize" on the importance of "proper exercise", "eating right", "cleanliness (is next to godliness)", "proper care of pets", "prudence in financial matters", etc.?  Oh, but Prof. Rast means "catechization" in Lutheran doctrine, but what else is it but on the pure Doctrine of Justification?... the proper distinction of Law and Gospel?
But Rast recovers with this statement on page 60:
What kept Missouri from confusion at the end of the nineteenth century? Clarity on the doctrine of justification!
Well said.  I might add the phrase "and until the death of Franz Pieper". – Rast continues (pg 60):
What has led to the confusion in Missouri at present? Its loss of a sense of catholicity informed by the Confessions' doctrine and practice, most certainly in the doctrine of justification.
"Catholicity"?  Rast throws in the word "catholicity".  This sounds like Berthold von Schenk, who harped against Missouri's lack of "catholicity" even while he was utterly confused on the doctrine of Justification!  Why does Rast bring this term "catholicity" here?  Does it clarify the real "confusion in Missouri at present"?  I think not.

Rast takes my breath away, saying (pg 60.):
There is no longer consensus on what our doctrine and practice are, which certainly has implications for the veracity of our claim to be a confessional church.
Is Rast implying that today's LC-MS may not be a truly confessional church?  Maybe he is getting too close to Walther here...  I can hardly breathe as I continued to read Rast:
In the end, I believe Walther was right. We will continue to run in circles, never really getting anywhere, until we find a linear starting point from which to move truly forward into the future. Where is that starting point? Confessional doctrine and practice. A divided Missouri will only be reunified when its congregations and pastors once again take seriously their quia subscription to the Book of Concord.
Ah, Prof. Rast, although this could be a "starting point", I believe there is an even more important "starting point" than even highlighting The Book of Concord, the Lutheran Confessions.  I believe things are so bad in today's LC-MS that it must begin at square one – the "gist" of what Christianity is – The Doctrine of Justification, Universal and Objective.  Repeat after me:
  1. Objective Justification (you know, what Marquart avoided)
  2. Universal Justification 
  3. Now, all together: UniversalObjective Justification! (UOJ)
Prof. Rast, haven't you heard how Dr. Walther A. Maier Jr., your colleague, actually fought against this doctrine?  Haven't you heard that Prof. Harold Buls († 1997), another former colleague, wanted to bring charges of heresy against W.A.M. Jr., but was prevented by President Robert Preus?  Yup, I believe Walther was right!  Get his Doctrine of Justification right.  And so you should properly, publicly discipline Dr. Maier and all other teachers in the LC-MS who do not wholeheartedly teach UOJ.  You cannot solve your problems with "catechization", "proper training" or even "quia subscription to the Book of Concord" if you cannot deal with those in your fellowship, nay, within your own seminary, who actually fight against the true Doctrine of Justification!  It is impossible.  How can I be so firm in my conviction?  Because Luther, Walther and Pieper taught me (by faith) the true Gospel.

But Dr. Rast, you almost agree with me, don't you?... for on page 61, you say:
Yet there is still good reason for hope. For wherever the Law and Gospel are rightly distinguished and the doctrine of justification holds the center, there is renewal for the church. Solid teaching at our seminaries coupled with solid Lutheran catechesis in the parishes can transform the Lutheran church from its current morass.
Dear God!  I did not want to give Prof. Rast the "last word" on this post... but I will.  I will repeat these words of Prof. Rast:
For wherever the Law and Gospel are rightly distinguished and the doctrine of justification holds the center, there is renewal for the church. 
    – President Lawrence Rast Jr., President, CTS-FW
Dear God, May it be so for the LC-MS and so may it return to the true Gospel.  Amen!
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The next Part 5a will begin my summary of Prof. Lawrence A. Rast, Jr. – beginning with his notorious essay "Demagoguery or Democracy?" essay.

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